Temples 'breaking the Sikh code' on meat and alcohol

Gurdwara generic
Image caption A gurdwara is a Sikh place of worship

Some gurdwaras in the UK are going against their religion by serving meat and alcohol on their premises, according to an association of Sikh followers.

The UK Sangat, an association of Sikh followers, has started a national campaign to stop what it says is the violation of the basic principles of Sikhism.

Some Sikhs have protested, stopping one gurdwara in Edinburgh and one in Essex from going against the teachings.

UK Sangat said there were at least another 15 temples in Britain flouting the rules, which they planned to approach.

The Sikh religion forbids the use of alcohol and other intoxicants.

Sikhs are also not allowed eat meat - the principle is to keep the body pure.

All gurdwaras are supposed to follow the Sikh code, known as the Akal Takht Sandesh, which comes from the highest Sikh authority in India.

'Worldwide disrespect'

No alcohol, meat, fish or eggs are permitted on gurdwara property.

BBC Asian Network has seen video footage on video-sharing websites showing scenes inside British gurdwaras that have shocked some Sikhs.

The footage shows meat being served, bottles of alcohol and young people dancing and partying.

The UK Sangat said this was happening on the sacred ground of the temple, which was totally against the Sikh religion.

Hardip Singh is one the Sikhs leading the national campaign to stop what is described as "disrespect for Sikhs worldwide".

He said of gurdwaras violating the basic principles of Sikhism: "We can't tolerate it happening on our holy places.

"If you want to do it privately, we are not going to fight or argue with you, that's your business.

"But to tolerate it on holy places - we can't accept that."

In the past few weeks, the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Edinburgh and Grays temple in Essex have apologised for breaking the Sikh code.

The UK Sangat organised a protest at Grays temple and 250 protesters demonstrated to stop a wedding party.

The religious wedding ceremony did take place but the wedding party did not.

'Immoral income'

BBC Asian Network has contacted the both gurdwaras but they declined to comment.

The UK Sangat said the parties where alcohol and meat were being served might be happening in halls next to the gurdwara, but they were still on property owned by the temple and therefore in breach of the Sikh code.

It also fears that some of that so-called "immoral income" could then be used for the lunger - the free meals provided around the clock at the gurdwara.

Image caption Kohinoor Singh from the Sikh Channel said breaking the code was one of the biggest issues for UK Sikhs

The gurdwaras are run with the help of donations, but also by generating their own income, and the UK Sangat believes the code is being broken mainly to raise money.

Mr Singh, a devout Sikh, has been put forward by the congregation of protesters to talk to the temple committees.

"Greed has overtaken religious values and this is about money," he said.

"It's the mentality of making money rather than teaching spirituality, which is the job of a house of religion."

The issue has split communities, with some Sikh committee leaders wanting to continue breaking the code.

There has been some physical and verbal abuse as emotions have run high.

Kohinoor Singh from the UK-based television station the Sikh Channel said it had been broadcasting the protests.

He said: "It is at the moment one of the biggest issues for Sikhs in this country.

"It doesn't matter whether the hall is far away from the gurdwara or next door, as long as it contains meat and alcohol - that's not going to happen any more."

According to the UK Sangat, there are at least 15 other gurdwaras believed to be flouting the rules.

In the next year, the Sikh group said it would approach the temples peacefully and ask them to stop "anti-Sikh activities".